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Retiree Dennis Corcoran Finds His Passion in Theater Program at Meramec

Dennis Corcoran

“I used to jokingly say I never knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I never really did. I didn’t ever want a career, I didn’t understand what a career meant, I wanted to do things that were interesting.” 

Meramec student Dennis Corcoran has certainly lived up to that statement.

Dennis has studied to be a priest, worked in the psychiatric ward of military hospitals, hitchhiked across the country, and was a reporter for several newspapers around the country. These experiences merely scratch the surface of this interesting man.

While he was born and raised in St. Louis, Dennis certainly didn’t stay there. A dual national US/Irish citizen, he has lived in numerous cities in the United States, as well as Switzerland and Saudi Arabia, where he taught Saudi air force officers how to teach and developed standardized testing for their air force mechanics.

As they say, there’s “no place like home” and all roads led back to St. Louis. Dennis retired in January, 2009, but that didn’t slow him down.

Dennis decided that he wanted to take a class on something he really wanted to learn about. Poetry was the subject he sought out, but the class was offered in the evening and an evening class was not an option. Theater caught his eye, and Dennis signed up for two courses: Acting I and Playwriting.

Meramec theater instructor Keith Oliver suggested he submit a play to the 10 minute category of the 2009 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. The festival is almost exclusively four-year universities and graduate schools, and competition is tough.

“We’re going up against Harvard, Brown, Yale.  I’m good with that.”

Dennis submitted The Sniper, which went on to become a national semifinalist. In 2010, Dennis entered his play The Conversation in the one-act category of the festival. The Conversation was also a national semi-finalist.

The Conversation takes place in 1593. The play is based on a real-life, private meeting between Queen Elizabeth I and Irish pirate and revolutionary Gráinne Ní Mháille (English translation Grace O’Malley). The Conversation is a notion of what may have happened during the meeting.

The feedback from judges at the festival was positive, and they encouraged Dennis to write a second act to The Conversation. Dennis not only wrote the second act, he is producing the play this summer. He owes a lot of that to his experiences at Meramec.

“What is going on at Meramec is incomparable; it’s one of the best programs out there,” he said. “In two years I have done more things here, produced two of my own shows, directed two others, and written two plays that are national semi-finalists.”

Dennis is already in the beginning stages of his next play.

“To call it in the research mode is a little jumped up. I’m in the early stages of it, it’s a big thing. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens with it, but it’s got my attention.”

What is left to do?

“I want to make really, really good theater.” And, there is one other thing.

“I can honestly say that I have a feeling that I may have figured out what I want to do when I grew up. It took a hell of a long time, but I think I’m there.”

"The Conversation,” directed by Michelle Rebollo, will make its theatrical premiere at The Focal Point August 19 at 7 p.m., August 20 and August 21 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Focal Point is located at 2720 Sutton Blvd., Maplewood, MO.